It’s a classic and beloved story. A 40-year-old shepherd viewed himself as a complete failure. Completely ignorant of Torah knowledge, Akiva didn’t even know how to read the alef-beis and practically despaired of ever being able to learn Torah.

Uplifting Maamad of Kavod HaTorah at Prudential Center as Klal Yisrael Set to Undertake the Learning of Hilchos Shabbos

Klal Yisrael needs shemirah… desperately! The last few weeks have sadly and tragically been the embodiment of the words that we recently read in the Haggadah, “Ela she’bichol dor v’dor omdim aleinu l’chaloseinu - in every generation they seek to stand up against us and destroy us.”

In our previous article, we began exploring the depth of S’firas HaOmer. Based on the Maharal and the Ramban, we explained that we are not counting down to Matan Torah, but rather we are building up towards it, ascending one day at a time. We do not wait for Shavuos to arrive; we actively bring it ourselves through the time and effort we invest as we count the Omer. After developing a general understanding of S’firas HaOmer, let us focus on a few specifics of the count itself. The 49 days of S’firas HaOmer parallels the 49-day process that the Jewish People went through upon leaving Egypt, before receiving the Torah. What is the meaning behind this process, and why is it specifically 49 days long?

Imagine a teenager lying on a grassy field, gazing into the night sky. As he stares up at the stars, he thinks to himself, “Look at how enormous the universe is. The sky just expands endlessly. It must go on forever.” After sitting with that thought for a few moments, he becomes uncomfortable. “How can anything go on forever? Everything must stop eventually.” But after a few moments of relaxation, his thoughts intrude again. “But how can the universe stop? What exists on the other side when the universe ends? It must go on forever.” And this inner dialogue continues as he struggles to contemplate the infinite within his finite mind. This struggle is not a childish one; it is a challenge that confronts any finite being who tries to connect to the infinite.

On an ordinary day in 2009, the telephone rang in the office of Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim in Queens. The caller was an official in the state government in Albany who asked to speak with the Rosh Yeshivah, Rav Henoch Leibowitz.